Category: Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah

Delivered at Mt. Sinai’s seudah shelishit Shabbat Nachamu 2007/5767

After revisiting and recounting the horrors of Jerusalem’s destruction on 9 Av, we begin the process of healing and consolation. To this end, the sages instituted reading the seven haftarot of consolation beginning with Yeshayahu 40 and the appropriate introduction “nachamu, nachamu ami” commonly translated as “comfort ye, comfort ye, my people.” But for those who have experienced tragedy, there is little apparent in this haftara which would be considered comforting. Most of the haftara praises God or extols God’s superiority and might, which for those who experienced the hurban would be hesitant to deny, and few would turn to in times of crisis.

Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah

Yom Haatzmaut has always been a controversial holiday given the religious and political significance of the State. For some, the State of Israel is a harbinger of a messianic age,…

Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah

For the first time since the inaugural Parashat Shelach devar torah, I’m writing the “Parasha Perspectives” section of Mt. Sinai’s announcements this week. The delay is most likely due to the changing of the people in charge, and the fact that Mt. Sinai has such a deep pool of talent.
Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.
Anyway, here’s this week’s for Parashat Vayetzei. Once again, the degree of difficulty is the one-page limit.

Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah

I had initially posted this a few days ago, but Josh Waxman pointed out a very careless grammatical error on my part which has since been corrected. Thanks Josh! Anyone…

Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah

In this season of teshuva leading up to the yamim nora’im religious discussions primarily focus on personal change. We look to change our practices, ideally becoming more committed to Torah. We seek to change our religious perspectives, hopefully reconnecting with the Divine. For Rambam, this process of change is not simply behavioral, but existential. As we acknowledge and renounce our transgressions we also take measures demonstrating that we have changed to the point where we “are no longer the same person who committed these actions” (Hilchot Teshuva 2:4).

But what does it mean that we are no longer the same person? How does the process of teshuva effect a change so substantive that it alters our fundamental identity? In order to fully understand this transition we must tackle the philosophical question of what is the true essence of our personal identity – to find the essential determinant which makes us “us” such that changing this element constitutes a meaningful change in our identity. While this challenge may seem daunting to lesser minds, it is no match for the discerning duo of The Incredible Hulk…and an Oxford PhD.

Articles, Papers, and Publications Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah

While there is no shortage of Biblical verses rebuking Benei Yisrael for their various transgressions, one such indictment which seems imprecise and perhaps overly harsh is the comparison with the people of S’dom and ‘Amorah. As we know, the legacy of S’dom and ‘Amorah is one of unmitigated evil and a benchmark for immorality which is used to this day. Their sins were so complete and evil so absolute that Hashem does not simply cause the cities’ destruction, but completely obliterates them with unparalleled divine wrath. And yet in Eicha we are told that “the sins of the daughter of my people is greater than that of S’dom” (Eicha 4:6), and in the Haftara of Hazon the Navi exclaims “Heed the word of Hashem you leaders of S’dom, listen to the words of our God’s Torah you people of ‘Amorah” (Yeshayahu 1:10). Were the sins of the Jews in fact as serious and complete to warrant such comparisons with S’dom and ‘Amorah?

Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah

This past week Mt. Sinai started printing what will likely be weekly announcement flyers. Most people agreed that the announcements took way too long especially considering that the majority of regularly scheduled events never changed, and now that there is an eruv people can actually take them home.
Since we are a nice frum shul, they also had the idea to have a devar torah on the flip side. And for some reason, I was asked to provide the inaugural devar torah.1
As difficult as it is to come up with meaningful derashot, I’ve found it particularly challenging to do so in a one-page limit. Since there are many ideas which I tried to cover and many details and sources which needed to be omitted, I may revisit these issues in a future post. In the meantime here is the devar torah as printed.

Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah

Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava Politics Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah

As some of you may know I’m going to be in Israel for Pesach. It’s my first vacation in just about ever, since for several years I have either had the time or money to travel, but not both. So I figure since I might not have the time or access to post over Pesach, I can address something for which I have recently been getting a lot of flack.

Despite my staying in Israel for roughly two weeks, I will be keeping one day of Yom Tov this Pesach.

Jewish Law / Halakha Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah

With Purim nearly upon us, it’s time once again for the reading of the four special parshiyot. We’re actually in the middle, having already covered sheqalim last week, but this week we get the spectacular fun of zachor (Devarim 25:17-19). Invariably, this reading generates much discussion as to how this passage should be read (including the practice of repeaing the last verse – a discussion for another time), and the extreme importance of being in shul to hear zachor being read.

Most of these discussions are based on the preception that the reading of parashat zachor is biblically mandated. This assumption has bothered me for some time, as well as the cavalier attitude with which it is presented. Despite the lack of textual evidence or logical consistency, few people question the nature of keriat parashat zachor. As luck would have it, my new upgraded Bar Ilan CD just came in and it’s all all revved up for a test spin.

Jewish Law / Halakha Jewish Thought, Theology, and Machshava Sermons, Lectures, and Divrei Torah